Friendship is an essential part of life at all ages. The relationship between friends changes as children become teenagers, according to the Child Study Center at New York University. During the teenage years, it becomes even more essential. If you have teenagers, you might notice that they spend more time with their friends than with you.
Friendships among teenagers are more complicated than they are among younger kids. A teen might have several tiers of friends. She might have a best friend or two, her small group of friends, or clique, and then more casual friends with whom she spends less time. Teens are also more likely to develop friendships with members of the opposite sex, too. The ways teenagers interact with their friends is different as they grow older. While children are more likely to have friends so that they have another person to play with, teenagers have friends so that they have people to confide in or to share their feelings with.
Having friends often helps a teenager do well in school. Friends not only make class more enjoyable, they can help a teen understand what is being taught more fully. A group of friends can help each other with homework assignments or group projects. Having a solid group of friends also makes it less stressful for a teenager to change schools, such as moving from middle school to high school or even moving to a new school district.
A group of friends allows a teenager to learn how to act in society. Some teenagers are more likely to share concerns with their friends than they are with their moms. With their friends, they can figure out solutions to problems they might be facing or ways to get along in the world. Teens also learn how to resolve conflicts when they have a supportive group of friends. Fights do arise occasionally, even among best friends. Having a social group helps a teen learn to move past disagreements and get along with others.
Not all teenage friendships have a positive effect. A teenager can find herself spending time with a crowd that drinks and shoplifts. As a parent, you can't shield your child from all forms of peer pressure, but you can give her the tools to fight it. Encourage your teen to develop strong friendships with people who like her for who she is. Get to know your teen's friends so you have an idea of who she is spending nearly half of her time with. Teach her to learn to say "no" when other teens try to push her to do something she doesn't want to do.